Sunday Morning Bloody Mary: What Is The Cowboy Way?

When I tuned in to the press conference on Thursday I did so not expecting terribly much. Okay, Garrett was going to be announced as the new head coach. Not exactly a shock.

I had hoped for some kind of an announcement about the OC and DC, but it quickly became clear that that wasn't going to happen, so I half tuned out of the presser and began to wonder whether Jerry would win the Time Of Microphone Possession battle (He did. Jerry: 21:40, Jason: 13:40).

But suddenly, just as Garrett had taken the podium, I was jolted upright as though I had just been tasered. Garrett had said "The Cowboy Way". Here's KD Drummond's transcript of what he said exactly:

"I was fortunate to be on teams here in the ‘90s that went to the top of the National Football League. .. were the best. I understand how those teams played. I like to refer to it as The Cowboy Way. When I think about those teams, and the level we played at, and how we went about it each and every day, those are some of the models that I think about for this football team. And again, we're going to work very hard each and every day to try and get back to that level."

Oh please, RHJ, let it be true! But .. but .. but ... what does that even mean?

Troy Aikman is certainly one of the players who've exemplified The Cowboy Way. After the dismal start of the season, Troy Aikman reflected in an interview with KTCK-AM 1310 (partial transcript here) what the success model for the Cowboys had looked like in the past. Aikman pointed out that while some franchises haven't won anything yet, and thus don't really know what it takes to win, the Cowboys do have a winning model.

Of course, this was a thinly veiled criticism of Wade Phillips and necessarily focused on the coaching side, but Aikman opined that what mattered above all else was having a coach in the house who the players had to answer to, and Aikman used the Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells years as examples. Those were coaches the players felt were in control, and if the players didn't do what either of these coaches were asking of them, there'd be hell to pay.

"My point is there's a model that has been successful for Jerry Jones and that is have a head coach that everyone knows is in charge and the players have to respect that and they're going to be held accountable."

"It's not going to be, hey, they played real hard - we're 1-6 but we played real hard. Who says that? If you look around the league in the history of sports, for the most part, the head coaches you look at and say, "Hey, what a great head coach," was somebody who held players accountable."

"That's kind of my thoughts on the topic. I just got done doing New England last Sunday. They've got some talented young players. Are they more talented than the Cowboys? I don't know, but I don't think they are. But they're 6-1, they're pretty good and they don't make mistakes and beat themselves."

Is that The Cowboy Way? A no-nonsense coach the players respect? That may be part of it, but certainly not all.

Michael Irvin, another player who exemplified The Cowboy Way on the field, was recently interviewed on The T.Ocho Show, and here's what he had to say about Garrett and the Cowboys before Garrett was officially announced as the head coach:

"I see what the Dallas Cowboys looked like in that last game under Wade Phillips when they played the Green Bay Packers. And then I see what I saw in the eight games Jason Garrett was the head coach, and there was a serious difference. He certainly has turned the team's fight around."

"Guys, we hear it all the time: a team will take on the personality of the head coach. If that is so, I know the personality of Jason Garrett."

"I often get credited as being one of the hardest working guys around the Dallas Cowboys. Well, I couldn't work Troy's arm to death. The guy that I was out there working with was Jason Garrett. He didn’t get the credit, but he showed up to work. So if the team follows him, they'll follow him to great places."

Is that The Cowboy Way? Showing up every day, working hard, fighting? That may be a large part of it, but certainly not all.

Can't quote Aikman and Irvin and leave out Emmitt. Emmitt is not usually the most eloquent speaker, but in his Hall Of Fame speech he not only delivered one of the best speeches Canton has ever seen, but he may have undeliberately nailed The Cowboy Way in passing:

"Thank you to Norv Turner for bringing a system that allowed Michael, Troy, me and our offense to flourish. Thank you to Jimmy Johnson for bringing discipline, focus, commitment and your expectation to our team. You propelled us to do great things in life. You set the bar very high and not only demanded that we leaped over it, but, Jimmy, you showed us how. You knew your players were capable of achieving the standard you set for us. You knew we could claim our greatness. It's what drove us to become the team we became."

Demanding, enabling and rewarding excellence and greatness. Discipline, focus and commitment. But also a system built around the capabilities of the team's best players, or simply put: an offensive and defensive identity.

Tom Orsborn from the San Antonio Evening News argues that there is no "Cowboy Way" and that the Cowboys won't be truly successful until they establish an identity and stick with it: 

This isn’t a problem for the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, two of the league’s top franchises. The Patriots are all about putting team-first, overachieving players around centerpiece quarterback Tom Brady. The Steelers are all about a punishing defense and a strong running game. Neither franchise is afraid of saying goodbye to players seeking lucrative, long-term contracts.

The Cowboys? Every four years or so, they change who they are with the hiring of a new head coach.

What is The Cowboy Way? Is it Brooking's pre-game "speech"?

Before the Washington game, as players gather around, Brooking screams, "We're gonna keep hitting 'em, we're gonna keep hitting 'em!" Players shout, "Yeah!" after both lines. Brooking, wide-eyed and picking up speed, says, "They might get back up. Then we're gonna hit 'em again! And when they're barely hanging on ..." At this point Choice cuts in, "What're we gonna do?" Brooking concludes: "We're gonna hit 'em in the mouth! We're gonna bloody their nose! We're gonna knock 'em to the ground!"

Is it the swagger the 90's team had? A while back, BTBs Carl Shelton explained what he thought the Cowboys' swagger of the 90's was all about:

I liked it when the Cowboys were the "Bad Boys" of the NFL. That unit operated with a level of confidence that bordered on the edge of arrogance. The players on those 90's Cowboys teams didn't care how good you were, or what historic stadium you played in. They were going to walk right into your house, track mud through your living room, raid your fridge, drink your last beer, leave with your girlfriend and dare you to say something about it.

They were fearless, and at times overconfident which came back to bite them a time or two. Still, those teams were too mentally strong to let the effects of a loss linger. Those teams were resilient, and there was no more frightening place to be on earth than on the opposite sideline from a Cowboys team coming off of a loss.

Finally, let's look at what the man has to say who is now in charge of delivering The Cowboy Way, Jason Garrett. For this we go back a little bit to a speech he gave the team in a Hard Knocks episode:

"I've played for a long time. The coaches that drive me crazy to this day are the ones that told me I was good all the time: 'Boy, you're doing a great job', while I knew as was mediocre as hell. And the guy who was on my ass and made me be good every day is the guy that I appreciate right now. That's our job. We're going to push you to be the best player you can be. For your own good. And to help us win ballgames.

"Play with a swagger. What's a swagger mean? Romo's got swagger. Witten's got swagger. Owens has got swagger. Play with a swagger. That's what we're looking for. You know what it is? Confidence."

"You don't have that, find the door."


What do you think is "The Cowboy Way"?

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